The time had finally come. The trip I had talked about for months was now along the horizon. I could feel it making its way through. It was the night before departure and it hadn’t hit me yet, largely due to the fact I had not begun packing. “Oh snap, I should probably start packing.”
One by one I added necessities onto a list, which would then make it into my luggage. It was almost poetic how as the list grew, so did my excitement. Packing manifested not only tangible items into my luggage, but also raw emotions that restlessly churned within me. The inside of my mind felt as if there were thick clouds swirling together to compose a cyclical symphony of stirred chaos, the kind that happens when a storm begins to form. Only the clouds weren’t clouds, they were my anxieties whirling around in my head:
- Don’t forget to pack anything!
- Please don’t lose your phone!
- What if you don’t get along with your roommate?
- What if you get sick?
All these panicked thoughts torpedoed around me, while I stood helpless in the eye of the storm.
But just as quickly as the storm had appeared, it passed. One by one, my anxieties floated away and I was able to transform them back into feelings of excitement. I found myself done packing and the completed task prompted a cool sense of relief. Then it hit me. “Oh snap. I’m leaving.” The next thing I knew my significant other was dropping me off at the airport and just like that I was off. Onto a new journey, an unexplored continent and unfamiliar city.
First thing’s first: any preconceived notion you have of a place you’re traveling to should probably be chucked out the window. When I stepped out of the airplane it was a chilling 58 degrees with a heavy downpour of rain, “Yikes! I probably should’ve packed my raincoat and puffy jacket.” I knew South Africa in June meant Winter, but I was not prepared for just how cold the temperature would greet me. I had a preconceived notion that just because it was Africa it would be warmer in temperature, perhaps something similar to California. Boy, was I wrong. When they say Winter, they mean WINTER. Think California Winters, but colder by at least 15 degrees. The breeze that rolls along with it makes it particularly bone chilling, which proved to be a bit problematic given that I only brought one jacket appropriate for the weather. It also doesn’t help that I brought approximately six pairs of shorts that I probably won’t ever use. So here’s a tip for any of you planning to visit South Africa in June: do not pack shorts because trust me- you don’t need them. Just because the Lion King shows you hot desert planes and the sun always shining doesn’t mean that’s how real life is. Note: life is not a Disney movie!
I’ve been here for about a week now, and I’m happy to report that despite having under-packed, I am successfully living the minimalist lifestyle. While I would have loved to pack more clothes suitable for the warm weather, I am being resourceful by utilizing what I have to the fullest extent. Besides, if I really did need to buy more clothes, I have the convenience of doing so. Cape Town is a city that has first world country vibes in a third world country. It is fairly similar to the environment I left in San Diego, California and for that I was disappointed.
Cape Town is a nicer area, with good restaurants, expensive shops, and pretty views by the water. Initially, I was surprised at how alike it was to La Jolla. However, after learning of South Africa’s controversial history, it became clear as to why this city is the way it is. South Africa is a country that has been deeply affected by colonialism, segregation, and racism. While the same can be said for other countries, South Africa’s case is unique. I could really go on about this subject, but I believe that is best saved for another blog!
I’d like to end this blog on a light note by listing some goals I would like to achieve while I am here. These goals include:
- Great White Shark Diving
- Go on a Safari
- Wine Tasting (Cape Town is big on wine!)
- Robben Island
- Hike up Lion’s Head
- Try a Gatsby Sandwich (Signature South African sandwich)
- Try Braai (South African BBQ)
- Walk through a township
By the way, my name is Michelle Thangtamsatid. I’m studying abroad with the Global Seminars program offered by my school, UC San Diego. I’m 26, from Los Angeles, California and this is my first time setting foot in the beautiful continent of Africa! Thanks so much for taking the time to read some of my thoughts so far!
Until next time…